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Naked Lunch (1991)

 -  Drama  -  24 April 1992 (UK)
7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 28,786 users   Metascore: 67/100
Reviews: 140 user | 101 critic | 16 from Metacritic.com

After developing an addiction to the substance he uses to kill bugs, an exterminator accidentally murders his wife and becomes involved in a secret government plot being orchestrated by giant bugs in a port town in North Africa.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Monique Mercure ...
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Robert A. Silverman ...
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Kiki (as Joseph Scorsiani)
Peter Boretski ...
Creature Voices / Exterminator #2
Yuval Daniel ...
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Sean McCann ...
Howard Jerome ...
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Storyline

Not an adaptation of beat writer William S. Burrough's novel but a mix of biography and an interpretation of his drug- induced writing processes combined with elements of his work in this paranoid fantasy about Bill Lee, a writer who accidentally shoots his wife, whose typewriter transforms into a cockroach and who becomes involved in a mysterious plot in North African port called Interzone. Wonderfully bizarre, not unlike Burrough's books. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

David Cronenberg and William S. Burroughs invite you to lunch. See more »

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for heavy drug content, bizarre eroticism, and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

| |

Language:

|

Release Date:

24 April 1992 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Budget:

$16,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$2,541,541 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was originally going to be the first David Cronenberg film to be made outside of Toronto until a panicked Ontario Film Board offered the director unparalleled financial inducements and incentives. As it transpired, however, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait scuttled any plans to film in Tangier, Morocco, so the entire film ended up being made in Toronto anyway. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Bill Lee: Exterminator.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Kick of Death (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

Vaya Con Dios
Composed by Larry Russell / Inez James / Buddy Pepper
Performed by Les Paul and Mary Ford
Courtesy of Capitol Records
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
A masterpiece of interpretive surrealism for Burroughs fans
15 February 2005 | by (Vulcan) – See all my reviews

Lots of people will hate this film, and some will love it.

The bottom line is, if you enjoy, respect, or feel that you understand the work of William S. Burroughs, you should see this film. If you don't know what I am talking about, you should probably not see this film.

The following pedantic and potentially inflammatory review, like this film, pulls no punches and makes no apologies for itself. Read on if you dare.

_________

If any three of the following conditions apply see Naked Lunch:

YOU

1. ...know what the term "visual metaphor" means.

2. ...are a Burroughs, Kerouac or Ginsburg fan.

2a. ...are not a fan, but know and respect Burroughs, Kerouac or Ginsburg

3. ...can't see how the book Naked Lunch could make a good film.

4. ... believe that Peter Weller is an underrated actor.

5. ...thought any of the following films were 'lightweight': Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, The Last Wave, Heavenly Creatures, Dead Ringers.

6. ...have lived in the New York area for 15 or more years.

7. ...know the relationship between improvisational jazz, poetry, and modern art.

8. ...think you understand what Andy Warhol was trying to do.

9. ... are curious about what the process of writing a novel is like.

10. ...spend a lot of time arguing with inanimate objects.

11. ...without knowing the content of this film, can see a potential relationship between sexual ambivalence, guilt, paranoia, addiction, typewriters and over-sized talking insects.

You should NOT see this film if any of the following apply:

YOU

1. ...consider homosexual love to be evil, wrong, and something you can not sympathize with or understand.

2. ...use the phrase "he's on drugs" to explain behavior and ideas that do not make sense to you.

3. ...do not like or respect Burroughs, Kerouac or Ginsburg, and you know who they are.

4. have a concept of challenging literature as the latest John Irving novel (no offense to Mr Irving intended - he's easily as great as Burroughs, just sort of mainstream and pop).

5. ..like films which you can walk away from easily.

6. ...don't want to see any film which requires a second viewing to feel as if you've really got any of it.

7. ...view films strictly as a form of entertainment.

8. ...without knowing the content of this film, you can not imagine a potential relationship between sexual ambivalence, guilt, paranoia, addiction, typewriters and over-sized talking insects.

9. ...don't care to understand most of the following review.

10. ...consider ambiguity and loose ends in a film to be "plot holes" and consider any film which has them to be 'flawed'.

_________________

William S. Burroughs is widely regarded as one of America's greatest writers of fiction. A friend and mentor to Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsburg, Burroughs helped to create the genres of 'beat' - American literary high modernism, and/or post-modernism. He provides highly tactile ironic, seductively repulsive descriptions of the everyday which are at once accurate, fragmented and surreal - in other words - Burroughs recreates the feeling and mood of his time and his experience with hermeneutic precision.

Cronenberg's Naked Lunch is an amalgamation of Cronenberg's interpretation and experience of reading Burroughs, Burroughs own life, and Burrough's legendary novel, Naked Lunch. There are six or more plots operating in six or more interacting layers throughout the film, and the action centers exclusively on Burrough's alter-ego, Bill Lee, as he attempts to discover the relationships between all of these plots. The plots I identify (and an interested viewer will generally be able to identify many more that this) are Burrough's relationship with Joan, Lee's relationship with Joan, Lee's drug addiction, Burrough's drug addiction, Lee's investigations into the secret society of drug trafficking at the edge of the world in Interzone, Burrough's struggle to create/discover himself. However, the theme of the film is more an issue of the Lee/Burroughs character trying and, in the end, failing, to make sense of the connections between these plots.

It is a very self-conscious, personal, brilliantly developed and visually intense film. Yet, despite its self-exposure and openness, the film maintains a certain distance from its audience, as if it has taken on the life given it by Cronenberg and Burroughs and established its own unique personality, which will keep its audience at a certain distance. To really appreciate this, you must watch the film at least a few times.

It is especially significant that Burroughs gave his approval for this project. Burroughs' writing is intensely personal and artistic, and his willingness to allow Cronenberg to position himself and his experience of Burrough's work within the film, and to decenter Naked Lunch is as powerful a testimony to Burrough's own integrity as an artist as it is to Cronenberg's vision.

Most of the people who acted in this film really wanted to be involved in it and it shows. Ian Holm and Roy Scheider are always great. Peter Weller, a big Burroughs fan and a severely underrated actor gives what may be the performance of his lifetime, Judy Davis and Julian Sands are both perfectly cast and powerful in their roles.

This films imagery is necessarily disturbing, disorienting, and, at times, quite comic. Very much in keeping with the feel of Burrough's work.

See it. You don't have to like it to respect it.


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